I Was So Wrong…
I shared this story on Facebook yesterday and because I feel it is so important I’m sharing it here too…
As we drove to Ben’s appointment on Wednesday, Dan and I were reminiscing about when we first saw the kid’s pictures. We were talking about how many times we have fallen in love instantly. Not every time but quite a few times we have instantly known. It’s amazing how many times you can lose your heart.
We then started talking about when I first met Elyse. Dan wasn’t able to travel with me that trip because two of our kiddos had just had open heart surgery and we felt one of us should stay home just in case.
I remember Elyse’s face when she first met me and I could tell she was disappointed. I was older and heavier than the mama of her dreams. I watched her act so much older than her years. She wouldn’t eat and talked of being fat, at the time she weighed 55 pounds. She talked to the guide about me and laughed. He would refuse to tell me what she said. My feelings were hurt and I wasn’t supposed to let them be. I had been through this before. You aren’t supposed to take it personal, but I did for that first day at least.
We got to the hotel that first night and she asked to see her clothes. I pulled out the suitcase full of clothes that we had lovingly picked out for her. She picked up items, which were rolled in pairs of outfits with a hair band around them, she took the band off every outfit, and put them in one of two piles. One to keep and one to discard. I watched her make faces and discard clothes that I had thought were cute. She would wrinkle up her nose and drop the shirt or pants on the ever growing “I’m not wearing that pile”.
I remember calling Dan that night and asking “what have we gotten ourselves into? What child in an orphanage turns down new clothes?” So many judgmental thoughts were going through my head. Will she be mean to our kids who are really delayed. Is she going to make fun of Grace who was a little overweight after her bouts of steroids. What would she say to Jasmine?
My heart was truly having a hard time.
The next day the guide told me that Elyse wanted to take the clothes with us on the orphanage trip. Elyse also asked us to buy treats for the orphanage. Elyse was very specific about what she wanted to buy. Time and time again she turned down treats that I suggested. I watched her tear open the snacks and pour them in the Walmart sacks. I remember thinking “what will the orphanage director think? There goes our nicely arranged care package.”
A couple days later we walked in the orphanage and everything changed. She found two older girls who were very delayed. She took the treats that she picked because they were their favorites and ever so sweetly placed them in their hands and put the treats/their hands in their pockets where the snacks would be safe. She did this over and over again. She found some little ones and handed them a treat with the biggest smile on her face. She handed out clothes and hair bands to so many kids. She hugged them goodbye.
And my heart knew underneath all that tough exterior and outward signs of “only looks mattered” there was a caring heart.
I was so wrong to judge her and she will tell you the same about me. So much is not understood at first. It’s been two years and I am still learning new things as she learns more and more English.
She recently told me that the nannies argued with her and wouldn’t let her say goodbye to the babies that she had cared for and her heart was broken. I had seen the disagreement and wondered what Elyse had said or done.
Our babies lose so much and it takes so much time until they can even tell us what they were thinking.
I think this story is much like life. We are all too quick to judge that person who doesn’t act like us, talks different, or doesn’t wear the same clothes. The person who is grumpy because they are having a bad day. We should all extend just a little extra grace because we never know what someone else is going through and even when we think we know, we are often wrong!
I know I was wrong. Every judgment I made of Elyse in those early days was wrong. Elyse has the sweetest heart. Yes, she is beautiful, I would hate for her to think otherwise, but now she knows her worth is not based on how she looks. Her thoughts before were what she had been taught, not what she believed.
(Edit) I woke up this morning and realized I didn’t put in one of the biggest things I learned about her once we got home. We had an appointment to take her to the doctor for the routine appointment that you do upon arriving home. She was so happy and we couldn’t figure out why. Elyse asked Jasmine, who spoke Mandarin still, if she was going to the doctor to see if she could have babies. What 9 year old is worried about whether or not she can bear children?
We found out that she had been taught that her only hope for happiness in life was her beauty, if she could have a baby, and have surgery to fix her legs to walk. She wasn’t caught up in her beauty and looks because she was vain. She was caught up in it because she had been taught that her happiness in life depended on it.
She is an adored, loved daughter. I am blessed to know her. Oh what we would have missed and oh how wrong I was!